World Mental Health Day is celebrated on 10th October globally every year, with an intention to promote awareness regarding the importance of mental health and address related health issues. The theme for 2020 is Mental Health for All: Greater Investment – Greater Access.
Mental health is an essential constituent of our health. A good health does not refer to merely the absence of any disease but it revolves around complete physical, social and mental well-being. As stated by WHO statistics, around 450 million people suffer from mental disorders worldwide and they are one of the primary causes of poor health.
This year due to the coronavirus pandemic, our lives have changed considerably. People are experiencing stressful work conditions, no social life, children are unable to meet their teachers, friends, many people lost their jobs. We all are anxious about our future and all these circumstances indicate that the need to make provisions for good mental health is of utmost importance.
On the basis of the symptoms exhibited by the person, mental health problems are categorised as neurotic or psychotic. Neurotic mental issues are primarily associated with emotional disturbances, anxiety, depression, stress and panic. On the other hand, people with psychotic health issues often find it difficult to judge the reality. They either hallucinate or smell, see and feel things which others can’t. Both can be diagnosed by a doctor under expert supervision. People with such issues need both medical and emotional support.
This year WHO (World Health Organisation) has collaborated with MHIN (Mental Health Innovation Network) to come up with specific interventions in order to promote mental well-being and provide psychological support. The aim is to bring the theme into reality with a greater investment in mental health to bring a long lasting positive outcome across the world. World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH) along with WHO are also campaigning various webinars, summits and conferences in order to engage more and more people with an aim to extend the awareness.
Some of the ways which can significantly contribute in promoting mental health are specific programmes for children and early childhood support, women empowerment, social support to elderly and specific targeted groups who are more vulnerable to mental health issues like disaster victims, migrants, minorities, etc. Schools, universities and offices should come up stress reducing activities and events. In addition, nutrition also plays a significant role in promoting cognitive health and overall mental well-being.
Let us discuss some of the nutrients which play a key role in keeping our mental health strong.
1. Omega 3 Fatty Acids – Omega 3 fats are considered as one of the best nutrients which are required to strengthen cognitive functioning. Omega 3 fats possess powerful anti-inflammatory properties in the form of ALA, DHA and EPA. Studies have shown that low levels of DHA in our body are associated with an increased of depression and anxiety. Hence, diet should be rich in foods like sardine, salmon, anchovies, walnuts, tuna, chia seeds, flaxseeds and soybean. Opting for a certified fish oil supplement is also a great alternative.
2. Vitamin D – Vitamin D is another critically required nutrient for our brain health. Vitamin D is needed for the proper functioning of various neurotransmitters like serotonin, which affects our mood and brain development. Hence, adequate exposure to sunlight and foods rich in vitamin D like milk, cheese, mushrooms and fortified cereals should be preferred. Vitamin D3 supplements are also a safe and effective choice to maintain the levels and prevent deficiency.
3. Vitamin B12 – Vitamin B12 is needed for the adequate functioning of nerve cells and transmission of nerve impulses. Vitamin B12 is required for the formation of myelin sheaths and lack of vitamin B12 might lead to multiple neurological disorders. Some of the good sources of vitamin B12 are eggs, fish, chicken, fortified foods, milk and milk products.
4. Selenium – In addition to vitamins, minerals are also requisite to promote mental health. Selenium is one such mineral which acts as a powerful antioxidant. It protects brain cells from free radical damage and minimises the risk of various neurological degenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Brazil nuts, pumpkin seeds, fish, eggs, chicken, spinach, sunflower seeds, and lentils are some of the selenium containing foods.
5. Zinc – We need zinc for the formation of neural tube and brain cells. Evidence of brain malformations among new born children and zinc deficiency during pregnancy under some studies; have provided sufficient evidence that zinc is involved in the synthesis of brain cells, spinal cord, DNA and RNA. Therefore, focus should be given on zinc rich foods like meat, fish, legumes, seeds, nuts, eggs and whole grains.
To conclude, both diet and psychological support influences our mental health and well-being. Unfortunately, mental health issues are still a stigma in our society due to which people usually refrain from sharing their problems and feel uncomfortable in talking about the same. This year, let us consider this World Mental Health Day as an opportunity to voice ourselves in busting the stigma and extend help to those who need. As it is wisely said that a small action can not only create a big difference in our lives, but others as well and may help in regaining the self-esteem of a person living with mental health needs.
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